A recent article joined the ranks of some major secular publications in announcing “The coming evangelical collapse.” The author makes some very poignant observations, most of which I agree with, such as that “We evangelicals have failed to pass on to our young people an orthodox form of faith …” and “… Christian education has not produced a product that can withstand the rising tide of secularism. …”
Books have been written by many men more learned than I about the increasingly weak impact of the Christian church in our nation over the past 150 years, including Muggeridge, Packer, Schaeffer, Blamires and other noted theologians, historians and scholars. An upcoming book by Warren Cole Smith titled, “A Lover’s Quarrel with the Evangelical Church” provides an excellent overview and diagnosis of much of what has nearly destroyed the impact of biblical Christianity in America.
I would, however, like to take issue with the very first point of the “collapse” author, a pastor, who like many before him falls prey to a false premise and sets up a straw man. His first cause of the supposed collapse is: “Evangelicals have identified their movement with the culture war and with political conservatism. … Evangelicals will be seen increasingly as a threat to cultural progress.”
On the first part of that statement, he is both right and wrong, at least in the last 30 years. Prior to that, the only serious political side to the evangelical church in this country was the National Association of Evangelicals. After the birth of what became the religious conservative movement in 1976 that gave rise to organizations like Moral Majority, Christian Coalition and similar groups, both the political impact and visibility of evangelicals escalated exponentially. It has also largely been linked to the Republican Party at least partly because of the dramatic turn to the far left by the Democratic Party post-McGovern.
What I am dog-tired of is listening to apologies to the enemies of God from evangelicals with either weak knees or weak minds that the culture war and the hostility to biblically grounded Christian influence in politics, culture, education, etc. are the fault of those Christians who sacrificed time, money and reputation to obey the clear Cultural Mandate given in Scripture – and followed in the footsteps of centuries of Christian reformers.
I sat in a luncheon two years ago at which British theologian Os Guiness blamed the “Religious Right” for the homosexual movement and claimed the rising hostility against Christianity is the result of our political involvement. Out of respect for my host I did not stand up and walk out, but call him out now because he was dead wrong.
A book could indeed be written (in fact, two already have been, but I won’t give them the credit of mentioning authors or book titles!) about mistakes, excesses, bad strategy, egos, etc. of politically active conservative Christians. I could write one myself having been on the inside at the trench level for 25 years.
What is unacceptable is that these criticisms largely come from those who have carefully avoided taking any incoming fire from the enemy on the front lines by hiding or cowering far away from the fray in their stained-glass towers.
The truth is that the church in this nation owes a deep debt of gratitude to men like D. James Kennedy, Paul Weyrich, Ed McAteer, Tim LaHaye, Jerry Falwell and many others who stood in the gap to lead when most pastors were too busy doing church to get in the battle. They were not perfect, as each would declare, but I had the profound privilege – for a backwater grass-roots grunt in the army – to meet and work with each of those men before they went home (thankfully Dr. LaHaye is still with us) and personally witnessed their heart for Christ, their courage and their integrity.
The real fault lies with the AWOL pastors who sat by as de facto pacifists while secular humanism, post-modernism, Darwinian evolution, neo-Marxism and pop church trends stole the hearts and minds of those sitting under their spiritual stewardship. Our real call, abandoned by most evangelical pastors and supported by flawed seminary training, was articulated by Dr. Kennedy in “Led by a Carpenter”:
God’s answer to the question of human purpose and meaning centers around two great mandates He has given us in His Word. A mandate, of course, is a directive or command that points us in a specific direction. The first of God’s two mandates – the Cultural Mandate – is found at the very beginning of the Old Testament, in Genesis 1:26-28. …
Here we see that God had a discussion within the confines of the Trinity – the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – and He made a decision: “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness.” This was God’s original intention: to make human beings in His own image. And He blessed human beings and made them His “vice-regents” – that is, His co-rulers over His creation with authority given by Him to act in His name and in His stead. And He instructed human beings, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion” over all the creatures of the earth. We are, in effect, God’s junior partners. He has given us the responsibility to have dominion and sovereignty over all the earth in the name of the living God.
Since God Himself created civil authority beginning in Genesis 9:6 with a very specific purpose and with clear boundaries, we are bound by obedience to the entire mandate as stewards to assure that government serves His purpose. That means we are involved in “politics.”
By the way, we do NOT believe that government can save us on a personal or national level, but as Martin Luther King stated, “It may be true that the law cannot make a man love me, but it can keep him from lynching me, and I think that’s pretty important.”
On the “collapse” author’s second point, that we are seen as a threat to “cultural progress,” I would respond with, “I hope so!” That will be another sermon for another day!